CARSON, Calif. – What a difference a few months makes.
Earlier this year, many were concerned that Landon Donovan was closer to hanging up his Nike boots than he was to remaining with the LA Galaxy.
Those days of doubt are over—the greatest American player of all time is coming back to stay.
The Galaxy announced on Wednesday that they have signed Donovan to a new multi-year contract that will keep him in Southern California, a decision that comes just months after his well-publicized break from the game, which led to questions as to whether he wanted to remain in the sport of soccer. Per league and club rules, the terms of the agreement were not released, but the multi-year deal could potentially be the 31-year-old Donovan’s last major contract.
And if it is, then it is fitting that the face of U.S. Soccer will remain with the Galaxy and in MLS for good. After all, you’d be hard pressed to find any player who has done more for the growth of American soccer than Donovan, whose contract was set to expire at the end of this season.
Throughout his career, Donovan has routinely answered questions about potential moves across the globe from Europe to Mexico, and even Argentina, yet he has continued to raise the level of MLS, within his own club and the league as a whole. That’s not to say that Donovan has never had his moments in Europe as he dazzled English crowds during his two stints in the Premier League with Everton, but he has remained, more or less, a fixture in MLS since joining the league in 2001 from German club Bayern Leverkusen.
No matter what teams—reportedly—came calling, Donovan has remained true to the cause of staying in the U.S. and doing his part to help the league grow. Following his first season with San Jose, the league contracted from 12 to 10 teams and appeared to be on the thinnest of ice. Now, more than a decade removed from those dark days, MLS is a league that is rapidly gaining traction across the nation.
By remaining in MLS and continuing to shine for the U.S. National Team — who can forget his legendary goal against Algeria at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, a goal that sent the U.S. into the knokout stages of the tournament and (perhaps more importantly) galvanized a nation — he has provided an example for young American players as well as those interested in returning to the league. It’s safe to say that without the success of Donovan on the club and international stage, there could have been no Clint Dempsey signing for Seattle Sounders FC or a player like Omar Gonzalez signing a multi-year Designated Player contract in order to remain in MLS.
Now contracted to the Galaxy for the next several years, Donovan is expected to further cement his position as the league’s greatest player as he currently sits just four away from breaking Jeff Cunningham’s all-time MLS regular season goal scoring record of 134.
But that won’t be the only record that is likely to fall now that Donovan is staying stateside.
The Galaxy forward is 21 assists shy of breaking Steve Ralston's record of 135 assists all-time. In the postseason, Donovan already holds the all-time goals scored record with 22 goals in 34 postseason appearances. With 12 postseason assists in those 34 games, he sits in fourth place all-time behind three of the original MLS legends, Cobi Jones, Marco Etcheverry and Mauricio Cienfuegos, just three assists away from another record to his impressive resume. In fact, it is not unfathomable to say that by the time Donovan finally hangs up his boots once and for all, he could be Major League Soccer's all-time leader in regular seaosn goals, regular season assists, postseason goals and postseason assists. A grand slam of honors if there ever was one.
But no individual record means more to the five-time MLS Cup champion than the chance to become the first player to win six MLS Cup titles in league history, something that he’ll achieve the next time that he lifts the Philip F. Anschutz trophy.
Add it all together and you have a player that statistically— and metaphorically speaking—will likely go down as the best to ever play in MLS and the best American soccer has ever produced.
Now that the contract hullabaloo is complete, Donovan can turn his attention to the field, where he has excelled as of late tallying seven goals and seven assists in just 15 games this season. Rejuvenated and playing some of the finest soccer of his life, Donovan’s attempts to lift the LA Galaxy and the U.S. National Team should make for riveting theater in the weeks and months to come.
And I, for one, am looking forward to watching every moment.
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com